Erickson Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Erickson Surname Meaning

Erickson tends to be the American spelling of the Swedish Eriksson or the Norwegian and Danish Eriksen patronymic names that are common in Scandinavia. The root in each case was the name Erik, derived from an ancient Norse word meaning king and probably also from the same Germanic root as reich meaning “to rule.” 

Scandinavian surnames rarely became hereditary in the manner of German or British surnames until the 18th century. In fact Erickson and its variants have only really been in use as last names since around 1850. In one family Andersson became Eriksson as late as 1870.

Erickson Surname Resources on The Internet

Erickson Surname Ancestry

  • from Sweden, Norway and Scotland (Shetlands)
  • to America (Minnesota) and Canada

Leif Erikson, the son of Erik the Red, was a Norse explorer who was the first European, according to the Sagas, to discover America. Around the year 1000 he established a Norse settlement at Vinland, believed to be a spot on the northern tip of Newfoundland.

Eriksen emerged as the Norwegian and Danish patronymic surname. Orm Eriksen was a Norwegian nobleman in Stavanger who led a tax revolt which led to his execution in 1521. A notable later bearer of the name was Erik Eriksen, the Prime Minister of Denmark from 1950 to 1953. Today there are an estimated 27,000 Eriksens in Norway and a further 18,000 in Denmark.

Eriksson has been the Swedish spelling. Charlotta Eriksson was one of the most popular actresses in Sweden in the first half of the 19th century. Axel W. Eriksson was a Swedish hunter and trader in SW Africa later in the 19th century. And Sven Goran Eriksson has been a Swedish football manager of recent times. Today Erikssons in Sweden number a sizeable 170,000.

Ericksons started arriving in the US and Canada in the second half of the 19th century. 

Scotland. The Scandinavian heritage in the far north of Scotland did leave some Erickson name traces. Thus Laurence Erickson was recorded at Breck in the Shetland Isles in the year 1613. And Erickson still appeared among the Shetland names in 1804.

Other Ericksons in Scotland and England were few in number and of more recent arrival. John Erickson, who was born in Newcastle in 1929 and became a foremost expert on Soviet military history, had Swedish forebears. 

America. The first Erickson properly in America was probably John Ericksson who came to the New Sweden colony in Salem, New Jersey sometime in the 1660’s. He and his wife Magdalena were parents to four daughters.

A later John Ericsson, also from Sweden, was one of the most famous inventors of the 19th century. Born in 1803, he moved to the United States and developed there the first steam turbine engine in 1839. In 1862 he built the famous ironclad warship known as the Monitor. He is also credited with developing the first destroyer in 1881.

From the mid-1800’s onwards Scandinavians began emigrating to the Midwest, particularly to Minnesota.

Minnesota. Scandia was the home of the first Swedish settlers in Minnesota in 1850. Johannes Erikson arrived there several years later. The Johannes Erickson House, built by Johannes and his thirteen year old son Albert in 1868, is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The house was constructed with a gambel roof, a distinctive feature from southern Sweden.

Otto Erickson came to Minnesota in 1868 where he became a potato farmer. His son Edward built in 1915 another Erickson building that is on the National Register – the Erickson farmstead near Isanti. The next generation of these Ericksons started Minnesota’s first gasoline refinery, the Northwestern Refinery Company, in 1939. The family ran gas stations and convenience stores in Minnesota and elsewhere until their sale in 2017.

Johan and Fredrika Erickson with four of their children departed Sweden for Minnesota in 1888. They settled at a farm near Dawson which they rented as the era of free land was by that time over. In 1900 they moved north to land near Lowry where they were able to buy a 140 acre farm. Farming generally prospered until the 1930’s when Johan’s son Axel was forced to sell the farm after the bank had foreclosed and move into town at Lowry.

Elsewhere.  John E. Erickson was born in Stoughton, Wisconsin in 1863, the son of Norwegian immigrants Erik and Olene Erickson. He studied law in Kansas, moved to Montana in 1893 and was elected as Governor of that state in 1924.

Sievert and Anna Erickson arrived in Chicago from Norway in 1863. One of their sons Nicholas settled in Montana. Another son Albert worked in the 1890’s in the silver mining town of Aurum, Nevada where he and his family lived in a dirt-floor cabin. In 1904 they moved by covered wagon to a small farm near Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. From these humble conditions came Milton H. Erickson – color blind, tone deaf and dyslexic – who is considered by many today to have been the father of modern hypnotherapy.

John Erickson meanwhile arrived in 1871 and made his home in Emporia, Kansas. He later owned and operated the Triangle Ranch in the Kansas Flint Hills. Ole Erickson from Norway was an early settler in Lyon county, Iowa in the 1870’s. His sons, T.O. and M.O. Erickson, operated a large livery and sales barn in the county in the early 1900’s.

Canada.  New Sweden along the Rolling River area of Manitoba was established in 1885 to attract Scandinavian immigrants. Erickson was incorporated as a town there in 1897. It was named after Albert Erickson, its first postmaster.

Oscar Erickson, born in British Columbia in 1898, fought in World War One and survived, although losing both legs in the process. His silver ID bracelet, lost on the battlefields, recently turned up in a box of junk in Vancouver and was returned to the Erickson family. Oscar was the father of the architect Arthur Erickson who designed the Canadian embassy in Washington DC.

Erickson Surname Miscellany

Leif Erikson and Vinland.  The earliest and most complete information about Vinland can be found in two sagas, Greenlanders’ Saga and The Saga of Erik the Red.  The two accounts were written independently, though both told of things that took place in the early 11th century and were passed down by word of mouth in Greenland and Iceland until they were written down in the 13th century.

In Greenlanders’ Saga Leif Erikson built several houses and called his camp Leifsbudir.  He was said to have named the place Vinland because of the grapes he found growing there.There are two pieces of historical information about Vinland.  Report of a land beyond Greenland where wild grapes and wheat grew was recorded by Adam of Bremen in 1075, based on information received from the King of Denmark.

Knowledge about Vinland also appeared in The Book of the Icelanders, the first written history of Iceland compiled in the 1120’s.

From Andersson to Eriksson.  Erik Magnus Andersson was born in Sweden in 1849 and married Johanna Stina Svenslotter in 1869.  They raised seven children – four boys and three girls – all with the surname of Eriksson. John Emil Eriksson was the son who emigrated to America.  He settled in New Britain, Connecticut.

The Erickson Farmstead near Isanti, Minnesota.  The Erickson farmstead is located in Athens township, three miles south of the city of Isanti, Minnesota.  It was first developed by Otto Erickson who immigrated from Sweden in 1868 and became one of the first settlers in the area.

Following a common pattern of land transfer from one generation to the next, his son Edward began farming the family operation about the time of his marriage in 1893.  Edward replaced the original farm buildings with the present ones after his farming operations had prospered and stabilized in the early 1900’s.

The farmstead, distinctive in the county for its impressive scale and extremely well-preserved condition, represents the upper limits of the prosperity achieved by successful area farmers during the county’s most successful years of potato production.

The two story frame farmhouse was constructed in 1915.  The farm is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Milton Erickson and His Auto-Hypnotic Experience.  In 1918, at the age of seventeen, Milton Erickson contracted polio and was so severely paralyzed that the doctors believed he would die.  In the critical night when he was at his worst, he had a formative “auto-hypnotic experience.”

“As I lay in bed that night, I overheard the three doctors tell my parents in the other room that their boy would be dead in the morning.  I felt intense anger that anyone should tell a mother her boy would be dead by morning.  My mother then came in with as serene a face as can be.

I asked her to arrange the dresser, push it up against the side of the bed at an angle.  She did not understand why, she thought I was delirious. My speech was difficult.  But at that angle by virtue of the mirror on the dresser I could see through the doorway, through the west window of the other room.  I was damned if I would die without seeing one more sunset.  If I had any skill in drawing, I could still sketch that sunset.

After I saw the sunset, I lost consciousness for three days.  When I finally awakened, I asked my father why they had taken out that fence, tree, and boulder.  I did not realize I had blotted them out when I fixed my attention so intensely on the sunset.

Then, as I recovered and became aware of my lack of abilities, I wondered how I was going to earn a living.  I no longer had the strength to be a farmer, but maybe I could make it as a doctor.”

Recovering, still almost entirely lame in bed, and unable to speak, Erickson became strongly aware of the significance of non-verbal communication – body language, tone of voice and the way that these non-verbal expressions often directly contradicted the verbal ones.

He began to recall “body memories” of the muscular activity of his own body.  By concentrating on these memories, he slowly began to regain control of parts of his body to the point where he was eventually able to talk and use his arms.

Still unable to walk, he decided to train his body further by embarking – alone – on a thousand-mile canoe trip with only a few dollars.  After this grueling trip, he was able to walk with a cane.  This experience may have contributed to Erickson’s technique of using “ordeals” in a therapeutic context.

John Erickson, British Expert on Soviet Military History.  John Erickson was born in Newcastle in 1929 to Norwegian parents. His father was a ship worker who served on convoys from Archangel to Murmansk during World War Two.  A Swedish forebear was in the Russian Navy and served on the cruiser Aurora which fired the blank shot signaling the assault on the Winter Palace in 1917.

Erickson Names

  • Leif Erikson was a Norse explorer who, around 1000, was the first European to reach America. 
  • John Ericsson, born in Sweden, developed in America the first steam turbine engine in 1839 and in 1862 the famous ironclad warship known as the Monitor.   
  • John E. Erickson served as Governor and Senator of Montana from 1924 to 1934.     
  • Erik Erikson, born Eric Homberger, came to America in 1933 and developed there his famous theory of psychosocial development and the concept of the identity crisis.
  • Arthur Erickson, who was born in 1924 and died in 2009, is considered one of the greatest architects that Canada has ever produced.

Erickson Numbers Today

  • 43,000 in America (most numerous in Minnesota)
  • 24,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Erickson and Like Surnames

These were originally Scandinavian patronymic surnames, with conversion usually from the Scandinavian “-sen” and “-sson” to the American “-son” on arrival or soon afterwards.  Here are some of the Scandinavian surnames that you can check out.


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Written by Colin Shelley

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